Charge Attack in Pathfinder: Fully Explained + When To Use It

The Gallant Knight sets his lance, couching it in his arm and spurs his horse to a run!

The Armored Dwarf raises her shield and warhammer. She sets her feet, takes a deep breath and launches herself into the fray.

A Half Ox feels the blood thunder in their veins as the rage takes them. The huge sword flashes as the Barbarian raises it and belows their warcry as they lunge forward!

This is the Charge! This is a potent and powerful combat maneuver designed to throw caution to the wind and just go! Throw Caution to the Wind, Swing for the Fences, and go long! 

What is Charge?

Charging as it is defined in the 1st Edition Pathfinder SRD:

Charging is a special full-round action that allows you to move up to twice your speed and attack during the action. Charging, however, carries tight restrictions on how you can move.

Movement During a Charge

You must move before your attack, not after. You must move at least 10 feet (2 squares) and may move up to double your speed directly toward the designated opponent. If you move a distance equal to your speed or less, you can also draw a weapon during a charge attack if your base attack bonus is at least +1.

You must have a clear path toward the opponent, and nothing can hinder your movement (such as difficult terrain or obstacles). You must move to the closest space from which you can attack the opponent. If this space is occupied or otherwise blocked, you can’t charge.

If any line from your starting space to the ending space passes through a square that blocks movement, slows movement, or contains a creature (even an ally), you can’t charge. Helpless creatures don’t stop a charge.

If you don’t have line of sight to the opponent at the start of your turn, you can’t charge that opponent.

You can’t take a 5-foot step in the same round as a charge.

If you are able to take only a standard action on your turn, you can still charge, but you are only allowed to move up to your speed (instead of up to double your speed) and you cannot draw a weapon unless you possess the Quick Draw feat. You can’t use this option unless you are restricted to taking only a standard action on your turn.

Attacking on a Charge

After moving, you may make a single melee attack. You get a +2 bonus on the attack roll and take a –2 penalty to your AC until the start of your next turn.

A charging character gets a +2 bonus on combat maneuver attack rolls made to bull rush an opponent.

Even if you have extra attacks, such as from having a high enough base attack bonus or from using multiple weapons, you only get to make one attack during a charge.

Lances and Charge Attacks: A lance deals double damage if employed by a mounted character in a charge.

Weapons Readied against a Charge: Spears, tridents, and other weapons with the brace feature deal double damage when readied (set) and used against a charging character.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Charge is almost exactly the same as 1st Edition, so we can address this all together! Justified Laziness!

Let’s break this down now.

First off, you start the charge by moving (obviously). You’ve got to get to your opponent as it’s the momentum of the charge. You have to move at least 10 feet to get that momentum going, and if you have a base attack bonus of at least +1 you can also draw your weapon during the movement.

When you reach your target, you can take one swing/stab/cut at them in melee. You get a +2 bonus to that hit with all that momentum built up behind you. However, one should note that charging is reckless and you are going to be somewhat easier for them to hit.

When to Charge?

Charge can be situational, and you need to know when to step on the gas and when to pump the brakes.

Charging is a massive bonus, especially at low levels. Never EVER discount that +2 on a dice roll. Every bonus is worth it when the dice fall. 

Charging can also lock down a target. Unless the opponent has the proper feats, charging an opponent with a ranged weapon can keep them from firing into the back line of your own party.

It can provoke an attack of opportunity at worse, and at best It’s hard to shoot a bow, toss a rock, or hurl a knife when a shield, warhammer, or knight’s lance is directly in your face.

There is also the Bull Rush maneuver, which was obviously tailor made for the charge. If you can’t hurt them, then you can move them. That could be all your party needs to get your enemies right where you want them.

Maybe it’s for a fireball, or a crashed flash of alchemist’s fire, but the successful charge can help you set that up.

When NOT to Charge!

This is a big one to know. Sometimes it’s better to fight defensively.

Obviously, if you can’t make the charge because it’s too far or there is an obstruction, then don’t go charging off a cliff/into a lava pool/into the maw of a Dragon to certain doom. (Unless it would be really funny).

The second thing to look at is what your enemy is armed with. That last line of the Charge Action makes note that charging a line of Pikemen in Pathfinder (much like in real life), can lead to being turned into kebabs. So keep in mind just what those enemy soldiers are wielding. No one wants to be a Dwarf on a Stick.

Make sure you are not overextending. Make sure you are not charging alone, or if you are, make sure you have some support. Nothing sucks more than charging in and getting surrounded. Just ask General Custer on that one. Watch your flanks, and plan with your party.

It might be best to hold your charge until you can make sure you aren’t going to get overwhelmed and stabbed in the back by a crafty rogue.

Plenty of traps can be devised around encouraging the players to charge in too early. A very crafty DM can set up encounters around getting players overwhelmed easily, so make sure you know your battlefield and know you can pull it off before you couch that lance and spur the horse.

Full Speed Ahead Pathfinders!